Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Window on Eurasia: New Push for Federalization of Kyrgyzstan Seen Having Dangerous Consequences

Paul Goble

Vienna, May 5 – A new push by supporters of ousted Kyrgyzstan president Kurmanbek Bakiyev to federalize that troubled Central Asian land with Bishkek retaining control only over finances and security could lead to the fragmentation of the country, the rise of an Islamist threat there, or even the absorption of one or the other part of Kyrgyzstan by a neighboring state.
In an article in “Novaya politika” today, Andrey Areshev says that the appearance of broadsides in Southern Kyrgyzstan calling for the federalization of the country, issued in the name of a shadowy “Peoples’ Front Opposed to the Provisional Government” almost certainly reflect a move by Bakiyev (
That is suggested, Areshev continues, by the statements of Tolon Dyykanbayev, a Bakiyev supporter and the head of this Front to Radio Liberty last week. In his remarks, Dyykanbayev said his group will propose this federal plan to the commission drafting a new constitution.
The possibility that Kyrgyzstan might split in two after the latest change in power in Bishkek, Areshev points out, has been frequently discussed, but “the absolute majority of political groupings have refused to seriously discuss such a prospect understanding the consequences it could entail.”
One outcome that some have mentioned, the analyst continues, is the inclusion of the northern part of Kyrgyzstan in Kazakhstan and the southern in Uzbekistan, a notion that was raised a decade ago. But that idea is “only one of the possible scenarios,” Areshev says, and not the most explosive.”
If the federal plan proceeds and if Bishkek’s power over the Osh and Jelal-Abad oblasts declines further, then it could happen that Islamist groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) would move in. Indeed, he says, “certain sources” are already reporting that IMU fighters are already planning to move from Afghanistan to Southern Kyrgyzstan.
Should they do so, Areshev continues, the Uzbek government would respond, possibly intervening and taking control of a large part of southern Kyrgyzstan, a development that could lead other countries to move as well or that could trigger the spread of the conflict inside Kyrgyzstan to other Central Asian republics.
As a result, Areshev says, “one can agree with the assessment of Bulat Sultanov, the director of the Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies that Kyrgyzstan risks becoming a second Afghanistan,” a view he put forward last week at a roundtable in Almaaty on “Challenges and Threats to Security in Central Asia.”
That danger could prompt either the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to intervene, given that Kyrgyzstan is a member of both. But so far, neither organization has provided any indication that it has any plans in that direction, something Areshev implies could soon change.
This absence of reaction “does not mean,” he says, “that there has not been any concern in Moscow about the uncontrolled developments in one of the formally allied states.” Clearly the Russian powers that be assume that they need to provide assistance in order to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.
But it certainly appears that things are rapidly moving toward a climax, Areshev says, given that there are reports that “the provisional government does not exclude the return to the country of former president Askar Akayev” and that “certain social groups have been putting forward the idea of making Kyrgyzstan a part of the Russian Federation.”
Areshev’s analysis is likely overly alarmist, but it is important not only for Central Asia but more general. On the one hand, it appears to reflect real fears in that region about the fate of Kyrgyzstan. And on the other, it will likely make it more difficult for Moscow to push for and Kyiv to accept any plans for a serious federalization effort in Ukraine.

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